Back Nine: Sunday Players drama was grand spectacle, as usual


Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 6:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 13, 2013 at 6:12 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you after a rare Mother’s Day actually spent with my wife. She seemed to appreciate it. It was a rough weekend with the passing of Coach Mac (Jim McCachren) and my old golfing pal Ralph Harry. As my buddy Chris Harry said, “Free golf in heaven.”

10. It would be easy to say Tiger Woods is back now that he won on a course where he has struggled for the last several years. Or, you could be of the opinion he won’t be truly back until he wins a major. Either way, it was must-see TV on Sunday. When he was up three shots, you wanted to try to find an old movie, but it’s golf so just like that he was tied for the lead. And then Sergio Garcia went all “Tin Cup” on us at No. 17. Woods is going to be a huge favorite at next month’s U.S. Open and with four wins already this year it’s hard to believe he’s not going to win at least one major this year. The sniping between the arrogant Woods and petulant Garcia made the weekend that much more entertaining. The Players will never be a major, but it is always one of the top four most interesting tournaments each year. And when you look at the players who have won it, it has an amazing history. As someone who covered the tourney when it was across the street at Sawgrass, I missed being there last week, but they seemed to get along without me. It was great theater. Always is.

11. Can you imagine if Garcia had been playing with Woods when he popped up his drive into the water on 14 on Sunday? I don’t think Tiger could have intimidated El Nino into letting him drop where he did. I’ve seen a bunch of angles and I think it was a very questionable drop. The ball appeared to be over the water for a long time before it got wet. Where’s David Eger (the former rules official who called in Tiger’s illegal drop at the Masters) when you need him?

12. I don’t know about you but I kind of saw the end of Billy Horschel’s cut streak at 23 straight coming at The Players. After talking to him Wednesday you could see there was an awful lot on his plate after winning in New Orleans. I don’t think he got the practice time in that he needed and was probably distracted all week. He had a shot to make the cut before a disastrous seven on the final hole Friday. After he was finished, he tweeted, “Disappointing finish to the day. Battled all day. Learned a lot this week that I will carry over to the rest of the year.” The Players may have sapped his momentum but don’t be surprised if he gets it right back.

13. A good part of my time Saturday was spent watching Tim Walton’s softball team power its way to a pair of wins and take home the SEC Tournament title. It was a dazzling display of talent for the young Gators, who scored 19 runs in those two games against some high-quality pitching. Remember when all softball games seemed like they were 1-0? It’s a new sport these days because as more and more schools added softball and more scholarships were available for girls, the quality of play has improved at the grassroots level. At least that’s my theory for why we’re seeing so many runs scored these days. This Florida team, the No. 2 national seed, is certainly good enough to reach Oklahoma City again, but you never know what can happen. If it was a lock, they wouldn’t play the games. And no matter what happens the rest of the way, it has been an amazing season for this team.

14. Just to show you the quality of the coaching around the UF campus, there have been 10 coaches at Florida who have been named conference coach of the year. That’s pretty stout. They are Walton (softball), Billy Donovan (basketball), Will Muschamp (football), Rhonda Faehn (gymnastics), Mandee O’Leary (lacrosse, ALC), Becky Burleigh (soccer), Gregg Troy (men’s swimming), Roland Thornqvist (women’s tennis), Mary Wise (volleyball) and Paul Spangler (women’s cross country).

15. Florida’s baseball team laid an egg over the weekend and by egg I mean goose egg. Because there were a lot of zeroes on the scoreboard against Auburn. The Gators managed to score in only four of 27 innings and only a miracle in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game kept them from being swept by an average Auburn team. I don’t know what it is, but over the last decade if you throw a soft-tossing lefty at Florida it never seems to go well for the Gators. The batters looked a little tight for the series and certainly there were a lot of bad at-bats. Most experts have Florida in a regional, but the Gators had better take care of business this weekend at Georgia. People I’ve talked to are convinced that if UF is over .500 when the season ends it will be in because of its schedule, the toughest in the country. I’m not so sure. Florida has lost six of its last seven SEC games. This is a team going in the wrong direction, but there is one more chance to right it heading to the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.

16. Boy, our old friend Bobby Stoops has been in a bad mood this offseason. First, he bristled at suggestions that players be paid a stipend (I happen to agree with him). Then, he was very critical of the teams in the SEC that are not among the top six, basically pooh-poohing the notion that it’s tougher in this league than the Big 12. Stoopsie coached in this league for three years but it wasn’t as tough from 1996-98 as it is now. And the latest is that he was dismissing Northern Illinois and still complaining that the Huskies got a BCS bowl bid. My man is stressing out about things he can’t control, but maybe he’s decided that campaigning is the way to go in college football now that we are heading to a selection committee instead of a fixed formula. All I know is that he is entertaining and giving the writers in Oklahoma plenty of copy in May.

17. I don’t like doing this, but I received a lot of feedback about one of my tweets from Florida baseball this weekend, so the Tweet of the Week comes from yours truly — “Watching Florida at bat in this press box is like getting your tonsils out. It is painful but at least you get ice cream.” See what you’re missing if you don’t follow me?

18. I made this incredible discovery this week, that my Iphone fits into an entertainment system I have on the back porch and the sound is incredible. My neighbors are going to hate me. Try these downloads this week — “Keepin Our Eyes Out” by Fitz and the Tantrums, “Strangers” by Lotus Plaza and I know this isn’t exactly an oldie but I heard it Thursday and it is really a great song. So for a classic cut, try “Brick” by The Ben Folds Five.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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